Advocacy Strategy: Domestic Violence Against Women
Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence states domestic violence is a pattern of behavior that includes the use or threat of violence and intimidation for gaining power and control over another person. Violence is characterized by: Physical Abuse, Economic Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Isolation, and Control (AzCADV, 2011). The battering of women by men continues to be a significant social problem -- men commit 86 to 97% of all criminal assaults and women are killed 3.5 times more often than men in domestic homicides (NCADV, 2011). It is a REAL problem that affects REAL people! Domestic Violence is a problem and continues to plague society today. Our Domestic Violence Victim Advocate program was established in 2010 as one of the three stakeholders to comprise Arizona's Superior Court Domestic Violence Court. The Court is a problem-solving court based on a model endorsed by the U.S. Department of Justice and emphasizes victim safety and defendant accountability in probation cases that involve domestic violence. In partnership with Maricopa County's Adult Probation Department (APD) and Superior Court, the Victims Advocate program completes the team of Court entities designated to improve victim safety and accountability for domestic violence offenders.
The problem to be addressed is twofold: 1) Adult female victims of domestic violence whose abusers are on probation in Maricopa County, AZ need access to the criminal justice system and support services, and 2) Information-sharing and collaboration is needed between law enforcement, the court system and victim services in order to protect victims, address violence against women and improve offender accountability. The target population of the Victim Advocate program is adult female victims of domestic violence living in Maricopa County, AZ, whose abusers are on probation in Maricopa County. Victims are referred by Maricopa County's Adult Probation Department (APD), and represent women of many age groups and socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, including low-income and Spanish speaking.
The Victim Advocate program provides a broad-spectrum of client-specific victim services on behalf of the Court for adult females whose abusers are on probation. The children of victims who have witnessed incidence of domestic violence are provided services as well if the mother is a program participant. Services include helping them navigate the complex court and probation system, and empowering them to engage in those systems. Program participants are referred to as "clients" in the program, but in the interest of simplicity will be referred to as victims throughout this proposal. The goals of the Victim Advocate program are as follows: 1). Increase domestic violence victim safety and well-being, 2). Increase accessibility of the Domestic Violence Court process to enhance victim participation in the legal system, 3). Build knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence and provide community and social services resources referrals as appropriate.
The program objectives and the accompanying strategies for implementation have been determined by identifying the needs of victims whose abusers are on probation and who may require a broad-range of services. Hence, Victim Advocates will help victims increase their safety. Contact with victims is immediate. Immediate and long-term safety is a core priority. Effective safety plans are created for victims and their dependants (when applicable). Victim Advocates will provide victims access to full participation in the justice system. Additionally, Advocates will collaborate with Adult Probation Department and the Court to hold offenders accountable for their crimes by facilitating the open sharing of information between the parties and victims. They promote continued and increased victim safety by educating victims about the patterns of domestic violence, plus provide services that include: assisting with court statements, Orders of Protection, and referrals for pro bono legal aid. Victim Advocates will work with each victim to build their knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence and to provide community and social service resources referrals as appropriate. Services provided are based on clients' specific and individual needs are accounted for, including language needs, cultural background, etc.
These strategies align with the identified problem, and they will lead to program success, which are supported by conclusions based on the following research:
1. The Minnesota Rural Project for Women and Child Safety, "Protocol for Response to the Co-occurrence of Child Maltreatment and Domestic Violence," (MINCAVA, 2008).
2. The Minnesota Rural Project for Women and Child Safety, "Recommendations for Protocol and Collaboration Elements for Local Multi-disciplinary Teams" (Thelen, 2001).
3. "Findings from an outcome examination of Rhode Island's specialized domestic violence probation supervision program: do specialized supervision programs of batterers reduce re-abuse?" (Klein and Crowe, 2008).
4. Key protocols of the Duluth Model, the first multi-disciplinary program designed to address the issue of domestic violence. The model outlines how to draw together diverse interested parties, from probation officers supervising offenders to victim's services agencies, etc. This program has become a model for dealing more effectively with domestic violence, from supervising domestic violence offenders more closely, to paying closer attention to victims' needs and safety issues (DAIP, 2011).
5. "Access to Legal Aid Lowers Abuse" (UPI, 2006). The study asserts that only legal aid is associated with long-term decreases in domestic violence.
The research is an examination of specialized domestic violence probation supervision compared to traditional mixed case supervision of domestic violence probationers finds significant differences in several areas, including victim satisfaction, probationer accountability, and re-abuse and re-arrest rates. Lower-risk abusers, constituting almost half of the probation abuser caseload supervised by the specialized unit, were significantly less likely to be rearrested for domestic violence and nondomestic violence crimes than were those supervised in the traditional mixed caseloads. Victims' satisfaction appeared to be higher, and abusers were held more accountable. Researchers suggest what may account for these different outcomes and the limits of the specialized supervision program in affecting the behavior of high-risk abusers.
Due to Victim Advocates intimate knowledge about domestic violence, government and community resource, etc., they are a rich resource of experience and workable solutions for victims that face a wide-range of challenges. The need for the Victim Advocate program is great, and letters of support has been provided from the Chief Probation Officer, Domestic Violence Unit Probation Supervisor, a the Domestic Violence Court, as well as written client testimonials. In this aspect, the program's sustainability is assured because the Court is unable to facilitate victim outreach, according to the Domestic Violence Court. Program sustainability is, however, contingent upon continued funding. Further diversifying program financial support is a high priority, and it continues to actively seek new and renewable funding sources for this program by networking and growing existing relationships with philanthropic partners.
The program is the exclusive provider of victim services on behalf of the Superior
Court's Domestic Violence Court. The program staff is comprised of two full-time Victim Advocates who conduct client assessments, including ascertaining the client's immediate safety needs, crisis intervention, safety planning, and possible need for an Order of Protection. Assistance is broad-based, and it may cover areas, such as employment, childcare, parenting, legal resources, health care, financial resources, and substance abuse referrals. Case management and follow-up is provided as appropriate. Because a significant number of victims are often involved or residing with their abuser on probation, Victim Advocates provide crisis intervention services to victims if a new domestic violence incident or other violation of probation occurs that increases the risk of domestic violence, such as substance abuse or weapons possession. The crisis responses are coordinated with APD in order to share crucial information and enhance safety precautions due to the enhanced risk inherent in an arrest situation. Because safety concerns are paramount to the mission of the program, the Victims Advocates provide services and then report to the courts any vital information regarding the status of the safety of victims.
Victim Advocates provide ongoing support during review hearings in Court, and assist victims when defendants violate probation terms and petitions are filed. Typically, probation periods are for three years, and the staff often maintains an ongoing relationship with victims for the entire period (and even after an abuser's probation ends if there is still a need for support). Several victims have children; therefore, the program indirectly serves more individuals than the hard numbers reflect. In addition to working with victims, the Victim Advocates provide various trainings on domestic violence. In the past, they have provided workshops on domestic violence issues, training for probation officers at the request of APD, and training for other community groups. Additionally, one of the most important services the advocates have provided is educating clients on the dynamics of domestic abuse and the effects on children. The secondary gains achieved by the program are significant. Early intervention with primary and secondary victims can help end the intergenerational cycle of violence in their lives. When not treated, domestic violence can be perpetuated by victims who suffer from long-term effects of trauma. Children are particularly in danger of suffering from such effects; therefore, it is crucial to have victim advocacy that helps stabilize adult female victims and gives them help and referrals for the…